Canada to reject Kyoto: What does this mean?

Here is a link:

http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99992269

So, Canada joins the US, along with (it seems) Australia, in rejecting the treaty. They aren’t removing their signature, but just not ratifying it.

Kyoto could still come into force without these three nations, but does Canada’s refusal now mean that the Protocal is, for all intents and purposes, dead in the water?

Do you think we moved too fast into the climate change treaties?

No, I think energy companies have an awful lot of pull in both the US and Canada.

Well, first we will have to see how this all plays out. I.e., will Canada really back out or will concessions be made. And, if Canada does back out, will it adopt the sort of “do nothing while pretending to do something” approach of the current U.S. administration or will it adopt a more enlightened approach to greenhouse gas emissions? And, what will the rest of the world do? To adopt a line from Calvin Trillin, my answer would have to be, “It’s too early to tell.”

As for going too fast, I really don’t see how we could have gone much slower. But, let’s face it, there are a lot of entrenched special interests to fight against here (and perhaps even a few people with some legitimate concerns). It is really breaking new ground to formulate such an international treaty. (The agreements regarding ozone are somewhat of a precedent…but for a variety of reasons, that was considerably easier.)

Yeah, entrenched interests like businesses and taxpayers.

The only reason Kyoto passed in the first place is because the people didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the details. They just wanted ‘something done’ about global warming. But now that it’s getting closer to implementation and people are starting to look at how much it costs and how little it really does, they are having second thoughts.

And for good reason. It’s a horrible treaty.

Estimates of the implementation cost of Kyoto run from 250 billion to 1 trillion a year. More money than it would cost to feed every hungry child on the planet. And yet, the net effect on global temperature is negligible.

The treaty was bad for another reason - the people who implemented it refused to look at alternatives to reduction of CO2. For example, would it be cheaper to just increase the size of our carbon sinks to compensate? Seeding the arctic ocean with Iron powder would cause massive algae blooms that could absorb a whole lot of the CO2 produced by our energy requirements. Less radical solutions also exist - one estimate I saw said that the U.S. could achieve the same amount of CO2 reduction by simply planting forest land in marginal areas, at an annual cost of 5 billion (instead of about 20 times that much, which is what it would cost to reduce CO2 at the source).

The science is incomplete, the conclusions hasty, the alternatives overlooked, and the treaty itself is a political football that total exempts the developing world (which is going to surpass the developing world in CO2 production within 10 years). The result will be flight of industry from treaty countries to those that aren’t part of it, where environmental controls are even more lax than they are today in the industrialized world.

What we’re left with is a lopsided tax on successful countries, to the benefit of countries like China which aren’t part of the treaty.

Those are some of the reasons why countries all over the world are backing away from Kyoto.

Actually, estimates range from saving money in net since many of the conservation measures more than pay for themselves to whatever the hell you want to estimate if you have a vested interest in making it sound horrible. Do you care to at least tell us where your ludicrous estimate comes from? Then I’ll give you links to mine.

And, Sam, I am really, really touched how you suddenly start worrying about hungry children on the planet whenever Kyoto comes up but conveniently forget about them when it comes to, say, funding NMD, something that might not have a completely negligible effect on world security only because it seems likely it could have a substantial negative effect. The issue of feeding hungry children is a political one … not a lack of money. If we don’t invest in mitigating climate change, we ain’t going to use the money to stop world hunger, we will probably use it to buy more Ford Excursions.

As for the small effects on the temperature, Kyoto is a way to start actually correcting the severe market distortions that occur when costs are not internalized. It is meant to give the market the proper incentives to encourage efficient use of energy and investigation of better alternative sources rather than continuing the subsidization of wasteful energy use and destructive methods of energy production.

Sam, not only do you know as well as me that the science behind these ideas is still too speculative, but you were actually blasting the allowances for carbon sinks in Kyoto in another thread. When I pointed out there that the opponents of Kyoto seem to like to argue both sides of this, I didn’t literally mean that I thought you personally would argue both sides! I guess I underestimated you.

Wow, I’m glad to have you on the side of worrying about the “race to the bottom” and all these issues that those of us concerned about the current popular flavor of “globalization for the benefit of a select few” worry about. [Pretty soon I expect you to be talking about a “big sucking sound”! :wink: ] Is this a permanent conversion, or just for this one issue?

The simple reasons why the developing nations were left out of having reduction targets in this round is (1) that, particularly on a per capita basis, but also on an aggregate basis, the developed world is the major part of the problem; (2) the technologies generated in the developed world can be transferred to the developing world. In the end, we are going to ask the developing world to develop without using the sort of huge energy per capita that we used…And, at this point, most of the CO2 rise in the atmosphere is due to the developed world. It is only fair that we start to reign in our consumption first. We are not being asked to cut down to per capita levels nearly as low as theirs currently is.

Oh yeah, if you want to read up on the “entrenched interests” angle, I suggest Chapter 10 of “Trust Us, We’re Experts” by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber.

And replacing it with… what? Algae blooms? Hardly. Canada plans to replace Kyoto with exactly the same thing the US does: nothing. And, thus, energy producers and consumers continue to get away with subsidies while ignoring the true cost of energy. The U.S. and Canada get to play free rider, content to give up long-term economic efficiency and environmentally sound policy in exchange for short-term “economic” interests.

In other words… if Kyoto is that bad, would what is going to replace it be any better? Will there be anything to replace it? Or is the “stick our heads in the sand and hope everything comes out ok” approach the only one possible when it might actually cost somebody something?

Oh, don’t worry, I’m sure the rest of us will continue to subsidize all polluting agents from SUVs to steel plants. That’s what the lower and middle class is for… isn’t it?

So the middle class is subsidizing their own SUVs?

Marc

I’m sure someone will manage to criticize Bush for it…

The best thing that can be said about Kyoto is that it might lead to other steps that would actually have a substantial impact on global warming.

What would you be willing to give up for such a treaty that won’t solve the problem? Your job? Your children’s schooling? Your parents’ medical care? Of course not.

When the experts come up with an approach that really will prevent global warming, then people might be ready to bear the costs.

Oh come now, december. This thread is rapidly careening into the economic fearmongering that self-interested parties and their conservative allies tend to resort to when these sorts of issues come up. The estimates of the economic costs of preventative measures are always wildly over-estimated by the industries to be effected (surprise, surprise) and even seem to be overestimated by government agencies such as the EPA…see for example: http://www.prospect.org/print/V8/35/goodstein-e.html [Ironically, this seems to happen at least partly because those who like to preach to us about the magic of the market seem to have some sort of strange amnesia when it comes to the market acting to comply with an environmental regulation in the most efficient way. See markets are only a great mechanism for producing Ford Excursions, not fuel-efficient technologies!]

As to MGibson’s question about who subsidizes who: Well, it is complicated. Clearly if a resource (such as fossil fuels) is being subsidized then those who use it less subsidize those who use it more.

However, even if we all used the same amount of gasoline, say, each year, there would still be externalities associated with its use which would cause the resource to be overused because of the fact that the costs are not internalized to the use. As a concrete example, say that you live in L.A. and don’t like the effect of the smog there. Well, you could argue that this should compel you to drive less but the fact of the matter is that most of the smog in the air that you breathe is not due to your vehicle but to the vehicles of those around you. So, the proper incentives are not in place for you to reduce your vehicle usage…Most of the costs that you produce are borne by others and most of the costs that you incur are produced by others. So, you got this funky cross-subsidization happening.

Re: Costs. In the long it will save money. It will force companies to be more efficient with energy, saving money in the long run. Unfortunetly us Westerners usually only think in the short term. The Senate recently defeated a bill to increase the fuel efficency by 50%… while other countries are increasing their fuel efficiency. In the long run, Americans will end up buying foriegn cars that get better gas milage from overseas and Detroit will languish.

We just aren’t thinking ahead. By forcing emission reductions (no matter how small) we, Americans, will end up, in the long run, to save money on gas, heating, A/C, etc.

Jshore: I am not arguing both for and against carbon sinks. The point about carbon sink allowances in Kyoto is that it causes different countries to be treated differently. After Kyoto is in place it will be cheaper to build factories in some countries than in others. That causes economic distortions.

Worst-case scenario is that it will speed up the flight of capital and factories to the third world. Not something I’m opposed to in principle, but for the purposes of Kyoto it’s a disaster, because many of these countries have even worse environmental controls than most of the Kyoto signatories already have. So the unintended consequence of Kyoto may be to make industry even more polluting and dirtier than it is today.

This is a separate issue from the issue of carbon sinks in general. That is a scientific issue, which reads like this: Is it cheaper to reduce CO2 at the source, or to build technologies to scrub it out of the atmosphere after it’s been released? I haven’t even seen this issue addressed by the supporters of Kyoto, even though there are some respected people who think that increasing the size or efficiency of our carbon sinks is a much more cost-effective way to achieve the same goal.

Also, disturbingly lacking from the Kyoto treaty is any real analysis of cost vs benefits. This is typical of the environmental movement, and it drives me nuts. They always frame the argument in terms of disaster vs big business. The concept seems to elude most of them that we can only afford to do so many things, and there are far more problems in the world than we have the resources to fix. Global warming is just one of them. If you want to impress skeptics like me, come back with numbers showing the cost of kyoto per life saved, or the economic cost of kyoto vs the economic cost of not implementing it, or a combination of both. Then convince me that it’s smart to spend huge sums of money to prevent 1 degree of warming over 50 years, vs spending the same amount of money on research into new energy sources, or curing cancer, or putting mankind into space, or building the infrastructure in the 3rd world so that it can become self-sufficient, or…

From what I can tell, in terms of cost/benefit Kyoto fares very poorly. It’s an extremely expensive solution to a problem that is increasingly looking not so much like a catastrophe as an economic annoyance. Even many of the most ardent global warming alarmists are pulling back from their wild predictions of huge sea level rises, major flooding of coastal cities, desertification of much arid land, etc. Instead, it looks a lot like global warming will result in economic damages in equatorial regions, and economic gains in temperate regions. The heating is largely taking the form of more mild nights and longer growing seasons in colder areas, rather than blistering heat and mass starvation.

As for these analyses that Kyoto could actually SAVE money… Show me. Point me to an analysis by a respected economics think-tank or even a respected economist. Because the only such ‘analysis’ I’ve seen comes from highly partisan environmentalist groups, and is basically just wishful thinking.

When I look for more reasonable analysis, even from ardent supporters of Kyoto, the number usually comes in at a median of about 500 billion a year, with some sources claiming a cost half that, and others a cost twice that amount.

But saving money? If that were the case, why wouldn’t companies do it anyway? Is there some force preventing energy companies from building plants that are cleaner AND cheaper?

If the facts speak for themselves, then let them speak without the snide spin. The openly hostile tone of this thread against the “evil conservatives” has convinced me yet again not to participate in another Energy-related thread.

Anthracite: It’s not just this thread. The tone of many of the threads on this board is becoming increasingly hostile and snide towards conservatives. Look at what December is having to put up with these days. He’s an honest, polite poster who has debatable ideas (albeit sometimes not thought through or expressed particularly well), and he gets ridiculed, attacked, and if you look in the pit there is even a suggestion that he be banned from the SDMB.

This distresses me. This used to be an unfailingly polite place. Especially in great debates. Now it seems that you have to have a flame-proof suit just to discuss something interesting. I left Usenet and came here to get away from that crap.

What I don’t get is the automatic assumption that if we don’t ratify Kyoto that we must be doing nothing, or that if we aren’t doing anything now it is because we haven’t found a way to do it right without causing problems elsewhere. These aren’t possbilities?

Anyone care to address this? I thought it was an interesting point.

Anthracite and Sam, you’ve both been here longer than I. Surely you’ve noticed this sort of things goes on then off again. But, hey, you leave it to the dogs and then complain about it going to hell if you want.

A flame-proof suit is a reasoned stand. If you walk away from this, the terrorists have already won.

erislover mon ami, they win no more than the crazy man on the street howling about the alien butt-burglars from Jupiter wins when I don’t stop to try and talk him out of his worldview. I don’t have time to argue with people who consistantly use either the “evil conservative” or “ganga-smoking freeloading liberal” slants in their posts w.r.t. energy issues. They have shown they are not interested in presenting a balanced issue and are most certainly not “scientists”, regardless of what degree they allege they have IRL.

Una

But YOU do know something about fossil fuels, and I for one would love to hear your take on these matters. If you don’t want to post here, E-mail me. :slight_smile:

But… but… :frowning: You know a lot of people read these debates even if they don’t participate. Maybe you should have a ready-made post prepared and just copy and paste it to stat things off in these threads.

Consider, I thought people were never going to quit complaining about Gore losing; but look, we’ve already moved on to complaining about Bush winning. :wink: